HC Deb 17 January 1989 vol 145 cc140-1
4. Mr. Wood

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many trainees have been on the YTS since its inception; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. John Cope)

Since its introduction in April 1983, 2,320,000 young people have taken part in YTS, which shows that its value is recognised by young people and by employers.

Mr. Wood

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Stevenage the success of the YTS is widely recognised? Will he tell me more about how many people have achieved jobs, further training or, alternatively, started full-time education compared with the position in Stevenage?

Mr. Cope

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said just now that 76 per cent. of the country's YTS leavers go into jobs or further education. That percentage is exactly the same in Stevenage, although, in Stevenage a slightly higher proportion of YTS leavers go into jobs and a slightly lower proportion into further education.

Mr. Nellist

Is the Minister aware that in the past eight years there have been 50 fatalities in YTS? I welcome the offer that the Minister made on Wednesday night concerning Derek Cain. Following his tragic death in 1982 on a youth opportunities programme in Sheffield, his father was offered £52 compensation, but three days before Christmas the High Court overturned that decision and awarded £20,000 compensation and costs of up to £100,000 against Plumb's, the Sheffield firm.

Will the Minister now give me, the House and the other 49 families who have suffered bereavements, a categorical assurance that when his Department considers the written judgment of 22 December in that case it will, where necessary, advise the other 49 families of the possibilities of similar legal redress for the deaths of their sons and daughters?

Mr. Cope

Since 1983, when YTS started, there have been 34 fatalities. Incidentally, 13 were road traffic accidents—such accidents do not count in the normal health and safety statistics, but we recognise them when they occur on YTS. Any accident, whether it occurs at the workplace or on the road, is to be deeply deplored. We must do what we can to avoid them.

When we were discussing the Cain case the other night I told the hon. Gentleman and the House that when we get the written judgment we shall certainly review the case carefully with two things in mind. The first is to see whether there are any lessons to be learnt from the health and safety point of view. We applied quite a lot of lessons immediately after the Cain case and in the early stages of YTS. In fact, the entire health and safety regime of YTS is quite different from what it was under the youth opportunities programme in 1982 when Derek Cain was tragically killed. We shall also consider the individual cases to see if we can learn anything with regard to compensation, as mentioned by the hon.Gentleman, or in other ways. In the judgment the judge said that in his view the case was not a precedent, but we shall study each case carefully.

Mr. Dicken

Dow my right hon. Friend accept that youth unemployment among the under-25s has fallen by 37 per cent. in the year to October? That is well below the European average. Does he also accept that about three quarters of those on YTS secured jobs at the end of their training and that there are 130,000 vacancies on YTS? Does that not sing the praises of the Conservative Government and their training schemes?

Mr. Cope

It does indeed. As a matter of fact there are 129,000 places available on YTS.

Mr. Fatchett

Does the Minister recognise that the answer he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Conventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) will do little to lessen many people's fears about the safety record of YTS? Will the Minister give a much clearer indication of the criteria that will be used when he comes to judge cases for possible compensation?

Mr. Cope

They will have to be the legal criteria; there are no others that I can responsibly use.

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